With increasing global competition, one of the key factors affecting the growth of garment industry in India is the lower efficiency level. Indian garment factory productivity levels are relatively low when compared to countries such as Turkey, China, and Bangladesh. One of the major reasons responsible for lower efficiency is that Indian garment factories generally have orders of shorter runs, which results in multiple and frequent style changeovers.
Style changeover in a garment manufacturing unit is the process of changing one style to another in a production line as per the order placed by buyers. With the concept of “fast fashion”, it has become difficult for Indian garment manufacturers to avert frequent style changeovers. Further, the pressure of adhering to shorter lead times is creating even more pressure on Indian garment manufacturers who are already struggling with changing product requirements and low product volumes.
Indian garment factories take hours or even days for changeover to a new style. In fact, companies lose as much as 20% of sewing floor efficiency due to mismanaged changeovers. If the above efficiency loss is actually converted to capital losses, a garment manufacturing factory loses ~Rs. 30 lakhs a month. Though industries globally have implemented lean manufacturing concepts such as Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), implementation of the same in garment manufacturing appears to be a challenge to most manufacturers owing to multiple variables in the industry. Some of the key variables that make it difficult to reduce changeover time are as follows:
Though the above factors might make it appear that it is inevitable to reduce the changeover losses, however, with process study and proper planning, significant amount of time can be saved in any style changeover.
There are three major phases involved in any style changeover; Style Planning, Style Startup and Line Setting and most garment factories overlook the most crucial phase of style planning, creating damage to the successive phases.
Key Factors Responsible for a Quick Style Changeover:
Wastra believes that there are some key areas that factories should work upon in order to minimize the style changeover time. The below figure illustrates the key areas that need to be considered for a smooth and efficient style changeover process.
1. R&D Techniques:
Research and Development is one of the crucial factors that can aid in this process. Though General Sewing Data (GSD) is acknowledged by the industry, however, many companies prefer their own standards. In such a scenario, it is very important that these standards are very well circulated among all the members of the garment factory so that there is no discrepancy or confusion in any process while setting up a line for a new or repeat style. Further, for any new product or style that the company has not made in the past, R&D samples should be made. Conventionally, the production department replicates the method used by sampling department to set-up the line for mass production. However, it is possible that the sampling department may not have used the defined machinery because of limited availability of machines in the sampling department. In such scenarios, replicating the same in bulk production models not only hampers the efficiency throughout the product manufacturing cycle but also affects the style changeover as several operations create bottlenecks in line balancing. Hence, companies should focus on creating R&D samples with actual machines, which will help them in analyzing the challenges before they are actually faced on shop-floor.
2. Effective Machine Readiness:
The preparation of machines required for any new style should be done outside the line before the new style input to reduce the running machine’s downtime. As availability of spare machines is generally a challenge for small and mid-sized factories, the maintenance team should be informed well in advance about the production plan and any new style so that based on product analysis, the required machinery and attachments are well in place before a changeover.
3. Scientific Operator Allocation:
Conventionally, the supervisors balance the line and allocate workers based on their understanding of skill level of different operators. This type of allocation results in frequent operator changeover, increasing the learning curve and creates bottlenecks in the sewing line. It is therefore important that Industrial Engineering (IE) team creates and updates the skill matrix regularly to allocate the operators in a scientific manner. When an operator is chosen using the skill matrix, one can predict the efficiency at each process and the line in-charge can preemptively add additional support in the operations that are currently running at lower efficiency. In such a manner, the line efficiency also improves as workers are allocated work content as per their previous performance and strengths.
4. Work in Progress (WIP) of Completing Style:
The follow up of completing style’s WIP plays an important role in saving line setting time. As all the machines required for the new style cannot be arranged separately, the line WIP helps in giving some extra time in between processes for any critical machine setting and operator handling issues.
5. Quick Changeover Team:
The quick changeover team is the driving force to streamline the changeover process and align all the departments towards the single most important goal. The quick changeover team generally consists of four members; Industrial Engineer, Garment Expert (Technical), Line Supervisor, and Mechanic. The style changeover team maintains a checklist and alerts the issues beforehand. The key components of the checklist are as follows:
- Monitoring Operation Bulletin (OB) as per standard
- Creating R&D sample
- Pilot run follow up
- Special machine/work-aid procurement
- Checking the status of input of cut pieces and maintenance
- Layout planning
- Conducting meeting before style input to discuss the probable problems and their solutions
- Identifying needs for training
Educating middle management, line supervisors and operators who are responsible for performing the on-floor style changeover can create a huge impact. There is a need to change the existing mindset of the people who do not focus on strategic planning or scientific methods in order to get better results. The quick changeover team should create awareness regarding the advantages of reducing style changeover time and how it can help to create more output with the same available resources.
Case Study of a Wastra Client:
Wastra has helped several clients in India and internationally to reduce their style changeover time as well as losses. The below case represents the value-addition that Wastra team brought to a women’s wear exporter with 750 machines.
“Wastra Quick Changeover Module reduced the changeover time from 6 days to 3 days, saving more than Rs. 3.7 crores per annum”.
In order to sustain in today’s competitive set-up, the Indian garment manufacturing units should start realizing their style changeover losses and work towards improving the overall efficiency of their sewing line. It is high time that Indian manufacturers shift from hit and trial method & troubleshooting to scientific planning & execution to maintain their profitability amid rising costs and global slowdown.